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Calgary police charge man in 2 cases of church vandalism

·2 min read
A statue of Jesus was covered with red paint outside of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Sunalta in southwest Calgary. A man has been charged in connection with two of the church vandalisms which occurred this summer.  (Julie Debeljak/CBC - image credit)
A statue of Jesus was covered with red paint outside of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Sunalta in southwest Calgary. A man has been charged in connection with two of the church vandalisms which occurred this summer. (Julie Debeljak/CBC - image credit)

A Calgary man has been charged in connection with two instances of church vandalism from mid-summer — which occurred after the uncovering of mass graves at former residential schools.

Calgary police asked for the public's help after 11 churches were vandalized around Canada Day.

In some cases, the churches were marked with orange and red hand prints and the number 215. Police say this suggests the vandalism was in response to the finding of residential school graves.

Preliminary findings in May indicated there could be as many as 215 burial sites at the former site of Kamloops Indian Residential School.

Since then, many more unmarked graves have been found across the country.

A 23-year-old man has now been charged in connection with two of those instances of vandalism, police said in a release Thursday.

Sebastian Rodriguez-Huerta is charged with two counts of mischief to a property primarily used for religious worship.

Police said the church vandalism meet the threshold of being hate-motivated crimes. Hate motivation is only considered once an offender is found guilty, where it can be considered an aggravating factor to add to the convicted person's sentence.

Investigations into the other nine cases of church vandalism, as well as a church arson around that same time, continue, say police.

Anyone with information on the church vandalism or the arson is asked to call police at 403-266-1234 or submit anonymously to Crime Stoppers.

Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools, and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for survivors and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.

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